Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease that can cause brain cell death, resulting in dementia which can lead to problems with memory, thinking and behaviour. Though Alzheimer’s effects mostly elderly people, it is not a normal part of aging. Up to 5% of people diagnosed with the disease have early onset, which starts when a person is only in their 40’s and 50’s. Common symptoms of Alzheimer’s include bouts of forgetfulness or confusion that usually worsens over time. The rate of which the disease worsens varies from person to person.
The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is still mostly unknown, though through decades of research it has been identified that the buildup of toxic proteins in the brain called beta amyloids and tau can cause brain cell death which leads to Alzheimer’s. How these proteins accumulate is still unclear.
Nutrition and certain types of foods have been studied for a link to Alzheimer’s disease. These studies have identified that just as there are foods that boost memory, there are foods that can destroy it. Foods that have been negatively linked to Alzheimer’s include mercury-contaminated foods like some fish and seafood, sugars like high-fructose syrup, corn syrup, white sugar; foods containing saturated and trans fats, fried foods, most vegetable oils, complex carbohydrates like white refined flour, white bread and white pasta products, white refined rice, cakes, pastries, processed cheese, all processed meats, bacon, all highly processed foods (any processed foods with artificial ingredients or ingredients not found in the kitchen at home), preservatives, sulphites, nitrates, beer and microwave popcorn; have all been linked to increasing a person’s risk of developing the disease.
Just as there are many foods that can cause Alzheimer’s, there are also many delicious foods that have been found to boost memory and improve cognitive function. Studies have found that maintaining a well-balanced diet of fresh whole-foods like the “Mediterranean Diet” can prevent and slow down the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Foods that have been identified as especially beneficial in preventing Alzheimer’s and improving memory include foods high in Omega-3, flavonoids, antioxidants, vitamin E, magnesium, vitamin B12 and folate.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to increase the levels of the protein LR11 which is known to destroy the beta amyloids which cause brain cell death. Decades of research and several studies have now shown that diets high in omega-3 can reduce the progression of Alzheimer’s and could be used as a preventative method in developing the disease. Foods high in omega-3 include flaxseed, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, oatmeal, walnuts, yogurt, eggs and low-mercury fish like wild salmon, rainbow trout, mackerel, sardines, clams and crab.
Diets high in flavonoids have been found to reduce amyloid-beta production in the brain, which in-turn reduces the amyloid plaque that builds up and eventually destroys the brains cells. Foods high in flavonoids include fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables such as almonds, quinoa, cocoa, parsley, basil, mint, dill, thyme, lettuce, spinach, kale, cranberries, lemon, oranges, grapefruits, apples, blueberries, bananas, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, red grapes, cantaloupe, watermelon, oranges, plums, tomatoes, beets, carrots, onion, garlic, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, celery, brussels sprouts, asparagus and celery.
Antioxidants help protect cells and DNA against damage caused by oxidants or free radicals. Free radicals can cause serious damage to the body and contribute to aging and the development of diseases like Alzheimer’s. Foods high in antioxidants include blueberries, goji berries, cranberries, blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, sweet cherry, black plum, red and black grapes, artichokes, red kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, cocoa powder, cilantro and dark leafy greens.
In a study published in 2014 through the Journal of the American Medical Association, it was concluded that vitamin E slowed the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Since vitamin E supplements can negatively interact with some medications, it is advised vitamin E to be consumed through whole food sources. Healthy food sources rich in vitamin E include sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, wheat germ, eggs, sardines, avocados, broccoli, asparagus and dark leafy greens like spinach and kale.
Magnesium has been reported to lower the risk of cognitive decline in a couple different studies, suggesting that maintaining healthy magnesium levels may lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Foods high in magnesium include pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, sesame seeds, cashews, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, oats, salmon, quinoa, spinach, mackerel, yogurt, black beans, navy beans and all other types of legumes.
Through a study published in Neurology, researchers in Scandinavia analyzed blood samples of a few hundred individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and found that there were consistently low levels of vitamin B12 and folate. It is suggested that maintaining a diet with healthy levels of B12 may prevent the chances of Alzheimer’s developing. Foods high in vitamin B12 include clams, oysters, mackerel, crab, sardines, trout, salmon, scallops, cottage cheese, milk, yogurt and eggs.
Eating fresh folate-rich foods daily may lower a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s according to several studies. Folate has been found to help protect the brain by allowing nerve cells to repair DNA damage. Folic acid supplements and folate-fortified foods have not shown the same results. It is advised to eat real whole foods that are naturally rich in folate. Fresh folate-rich foods include dark leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, beets, bok choy, cauliflower, parsley, green beans, papaya, brussels sprouts, cabbage, green peas, celery, squash, tomatoes, strawberries, legumes and lentils.
Recent studies have found maple syrup to protect brain cells against damage caused by beta amyloid proteins. At the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, a group of international scientists shared research that showed maple syrup prevented the tangling of beta amyloid proteins and protected brain cells.
Mercury has been found to cause the same brain nerve damage as beta amyloid proteins. Research conducted by the University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine in collaboration with the University of Kentucky found that mercury poisoning caused brain damage resulting in Alzheimer’s. Mercury is most commonly introduced into the body through mercury fillings, but can also be introduced through vaccines, seafood and pollution from coal-burning power plants.
To protect yourself against Alzheimer’s disease it is best to avoid industrial pollutants, highly processed foods and artificial ingredients. Maintaining a well-balanced whole food meal plan, getting plenty of fresh air and regular mental stimulation are all healthy ways to exercise, protect and nurture a healthy brain and a strong mind.
Written by: J. Marshall
Try my Spicy Stuffed Bell Pepper recipe! Bell peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic are all excellent food sources to help fight Alzheimer’s disease.
Try my Fruit Salad with Creamy Orange Chia Seed Dressing recipe! Fresh fruits are an excellent food source to help fight Alzheimer’s disease.
• Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Center / Food, Eating and Alzheimer’s: https://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-food-eating.asp
• Alzheimer’s Association / Adopt a Healthy Diet: http://www.alz.org/brain-health/adopt_healthy_diet.asp
• Alzheimers.net / Nutrition and Dementia: Foods that may induce memory loss & increase Alzheimers: http://www.alzheimers.net/2014-01-02/foods-that-induce-memory-loss/
• Alzheimers.net / Alzheimer’s Could be prevented by Maple Syrup Researchers Say: http://www.alzheimers.net/5-02-16-alzheimers-prevented-by-maple-syrup/
• Alzheimer’s Society / Mediterranean Diet: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/info/20010/risk_factors_and_prevention/149/mediterranean_diet
• National Institute on Aging / Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center / The search for Alzheimer’s Prevention Strategies: https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/preventing-alzheimers-disease/search-alzheimers-prevention-strategies
• Alzheimers.net / Memory Boosting Superfoods That Fight Alzheimers: http://www.alzheimers.net/2013-10-15/superfoods-that-fight-alzheimers/
• Prevention.com / health / This Diest Change Could Save You From Alzheimers: http://www.prevention.com/health/how-diet-impacts-alzheimers-risk
• HelpGuid.org / Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/alzheimers-dementia/alzheimers-and-dementia-prevention.htm
• Dr. Axe: Food is Medicine / Dementia & Diet Matter: These Foods Raise Alzheimer’s Risk: https://draxe.com/foods-raise-alzheimers-risk/
• Dr. Axe: Food is Medicine / 7 Ways To Lower Dementia Risk: https://draxe.com/dementia/
• Food for the Brain: Championing Optimum Nutrition for the Mind / About Dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease: http://www.foodforthebrain.org/nutrition-solutions/dementia-and-alzheimer%E2%80%99s-disease/about-dementiaalzheimer%E2%80%99s-disease.aspx
• Alzheimers Australia Dementia Research Foundation / The MIND diet: another approach to dementia risk reduction: https://www.dementiaresearchfoundation.org.au/blog/mind-diet-another-approach-dementia-risk-reduction
• Science-Based Medicine / Vitamin E for Alzheimer’s: https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/vitamin-e-for-alzheimers/
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